Thursday, September 26, 2013

With Special Courts, State Aims to Steer Women Away From Sex Trade

With Special Courts, State Aims to Steer Women Away From Sex Trade

Michael Appleton for The New York Times
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, speaking on Wednesday in Midtown Manhattan, announced a system of state courts to handle prostitution cases.
New York State is creating a statewide system of specialized criminal courts to handle prostitution cases and provide services to help wrest human- and sex-trafficking victims from the cycle of exploitation and arrest, the state’s chief judge announced on Wednesday. The initiative is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

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Eleven new courts across the state, modeled on three narrower pilot projects in New York City and Nassau County, will bring together specially trained prosecutors, judges and defense lawyers, along with social workers and an array of other services, the chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, said in a speech to the Citizens Crime Commission in Midtown Manhattan.
“Human trafficking is a crime that inflicts terrible harm on the most vulnerable members of society: victims of abuse, the poor, children, runaways, immigrants,” Judge Lippman said. “It is in every sense a form of modern-day slavery. We cannot tolerate this practice in a civilized society, nor can we afford to let victims of trafficking slip between the cracks of our justice system.”
The new Human Trafficking Intervention Courts will handle all cases involving prostitution-related offenses that continue past arraignment, Judge Lippman said. Cases will be evaluated by the judge, defense lawyer and prosecutor, and if they agree, the court will refer defendants to services like drug treatment, shelter, immigration assistance and health care, as well as education and job training, in an effort to keep them from returning to the sex trade.
The new program is in some measure modeled after specialized courts for domestic violence and low-level drug offenses. They are intended to end the Sisyphean shuffling of victims of trafficking through the criminal justice system, a process that fails to address the underlying reasons for their landing in court — or on the streets — in the first place, the judge said.
The initiative comes at a time of growing consensus among criminal justice professionals across the country that in many cases it makes more sense to treat people charged with prostitution offenses as victims rather than defendants. It is a view that is largely born of an increasing focus on the widespread trafficking of under-age girls; women typically enter prostitution in the United States between ages 12 and 14, Judge Lippman said.
That consensus was reflected by some of the people who joined Judge Lippman for the announcement. There were district attorneys from across the state, including Cyrus R. Vance Jr. from Manhattan, Richard A. Brown from Queens, Daniel M. Donovan Jr. from Staten Island, Janet DiFiore from Westchester County and Kathleen M. Rice from Nassau County, who heads the state’s District Attorneys Association; Steven Banks, the Legal Aid Society’s attorney in chief; and Lori L. Cohen, director of Sanctuary for Families’ Anti-Trafficking Initiative, a leading advocate for trafficking victims. Representatives of some of the dozen other service providers involved in the new program also attended.
The consensus was also reflected by three laws passed by the New York Legislature in recent years, including the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, which criminalizes sex and labor trafficking; the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act, under which anyone younger than 18 who is arrested on prostitution charges is treated as “a sexually exploited child”; and a law that allows trafficking victims to have their prostitution convictions vacated.
The new courts, one in each of New York City’s five boroughs and six others situated from Long Island to Buffalo, will all be functioning by the end of October, Judge Lippman said. They will handle 95 percent of the thousands of cases each year in which people are charged with prostitution and human trafficking offenses.
Other cities across the country have special trafficking courts, including Baltimore; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; and West Palm Beach, Fla. A law that took effect this month in Texas requires the largest counties to start prostitution diversion programs, and Connecticut has two courts that deal with so-called quality-of-life offenses, including prostitution.
But New York State’s new courts, Judge Lippman said, represent the first statewide system to deal with human trafficking.
He said setting up the courts would require minimal to no additional spending because the system would simply be handling the same cases in a more creative manner. He said there would be more costs to the service providers, which are financed largely by government grants and private sources, but he could not provide a dollar figure.

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Hours after Judge Lippman’s speech, the nation’s most influential medical advisory group released a report that examined the impact of sex trafficking and the exploitation of children in the United States and called for the development of laws and policies with goals similar to those expressed by the judge. The report, by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, and paid for by the Justice Department, says sex trafficking and such exploitation are “commonly overlooked, misunderstood and unaddressed forms of child abuse.”
The report also points out that despite statutory rape laws in every state that say children under a certain age cannot legally consent to having sex, most states allow minors to be arrested and charged with prostitution crimes as opposed to being treated as victims.
Mr. Banks, of the Legal Aid Society, said in an interview that the new system was “an extremely important step forward nationally” to set up courts where people accused of prostitution and related offenses can be connected to programs that offer what he called “a pathway to change.”
“It’s certainly critical that underlying all of this is the concept of providing a helping hand rather than the back of a hand,” he said. “Survivors of trafficking are left with literally an indelible scar in the form of a criminal record that affects employment, housing, financial aid for college and government benefits and even the ability to stay in this county.”
The approach being tried in New York, he added, “can give human trafficking survivors a second chance in life.”

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Troubling Gaps in the U.S. Response to Human Trafficking under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

The International Human Rights Clinic at Santa Clara University School of Law submitted a shadow report to the U.N. Human Rights Committee called Troubling Gaps in the U.S. Response to Human Trafficking under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

The information in our shadow report derives largely from dozens of interviews with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, victim services providers, and legal aid providers who work with human trafficking victims. The shadow report focuses on three issues: 1) under-identification and investigation of labor trafficking cases, 2) inadequate attention to the link between the child welfare system and human trafficking, and 3) the need for greater federal government coordination of national, state, and local anti-trafficking efforts.

A blog post about the event can be found here.

Information about our Day of Action panel discussion TODAY can be found here.

We want to thank the US Human Rights Network for their guidance and support in submitting this shadow report.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Human Trafficking Continues to Ravage Jharkhand

Human Trafficking Continues to Ravage Jharkhand

Suman Tutti in front of her home in Bhoot village in Khunti district of Jharkhand on Sept. 1.Raksha KumarSuman Tutti in front of her home in Bhoot village in Khunti district of Jharkhand on Sept. 1.
BHOOT, Jharkhand— Suman Tutti, 11, a frail, shy girl from Bhoot village, around 35 kilometers, or 21 miles from Ranchi, the capital of the eastern state of Jharkhand, is one of the 100,000 girls who are trafficked from the state every year, according to the state government statistics.
On a punishingly hot June afternoon, as Ms. Tutti was returning from her school, a middle-aged woman approached her. The woman asked Ms. Tutti if she wanted to go out of Jharkhand to work. She also offered the chance to study along with work.
Ms. Tutti, who lived in stark poverty with her parents and seven siblings in a mud house, found the proposal alluring. She followed the stranger.
Her parents searched for her wherever they could. “We looked for her everywhere,” said Savitri Tutti, her mother, “but we couldn’t find Suman.”
Bhoot is a village in Khunti district of Jharkhand, which has been caught in the conflict between Maoist insurgents and Indian security forces. Ms. Tutti’s parents assumed that their daughter had been taken away by the police or the insurgents.  “After 15 days of not seeing her, we assumed she was dead,” recalled Mrs. Tutti.
A UN report in July declared Jharkhand as the worst victim of human trafficking. The woman who had offered Ms. Tutti a job and an education worked for a human trafficking ring. She sold the 11-year-old girl to a middleman for Rs. 1500, or $24. The middleman took her on a train to Delhi. Ms. Tutti was made to sleep on the floor of the train for the two nights of the journey and was denied food.
“The problem with trafficking is that there can be no preventive action by the police,” explained Sampath Meena, the inspector general of police for organized crime in Ranchi.  The police, Mr. Meena said, struggled with differentiating between people migrating for employment and those who were being trafficked.
Naman Tapno, an activist with Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, a non-profit organization that works with the victims of human trafficking, argued that the police can identify the middlemen and intensify policing in the rural areas of Jharkhand.
The Tuttis live in a sparsely populated area, whose luxurious greens and lazily grazing cattle create the illusion of a pastoral idyll. But the presence of a paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force camp, two kilometers or a little more than a mile from their house, is a reminder of the lethal insurgency and counter-insurgency in the region.
Ms. Tutti partly took up a stranger’s offer of work in a distant city because of the violence engulfing her home. “We were always told to be home before dark, the Naxals [Maoist insurgents] wanted my friend to join their cause, while another friend of mine was threatened by the police,” she said.
On her arrival in New Delhi, Ms. Tutti was kept in a house near the New Delhi Railway Station for two days. Then she was taken to a house, where she worked as a domestic help. She cleaned the house, cooked, washed utensils. “I had no energy to study after that,” she recalled. “They didn’t send me to school or help me with studies.”
“The main problem is that 67 percent of young girls that are trafficked are tricked into it by someone they know,” said Sanjay Mishra, the coordinator of Jharkhand’s State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPRC).
Suman Tutti, second from right, with her family members outside her home in Jharkhand, on Sept. 1.Raksha KumarSuman Tutti, second from right, with her family members outside her home in Jharkhand, on Sept. 1.
Jharkhand is home to a significant population of India’s indigenous tribal communities, who are among the most disenfranchised citizens of the country. According to official statistics, around nine million out of 32 million people in Jharkhand are from tribal communities. Mr. Mishra claimed that more than 80 percent of the girls, who are trafficked belong to the tribal communities.
Jharkhand’s tribes have a tradition known as “mehmaani” where parents send children to live with their uncles for a few months to foster better familial ties. “Many families sent their children for “mehmaani” and didn’t expect them for several months,” said Mr. Mishra. “After a substantial amount of time, they realized that their children had been trafficked.”
Some of the girls who get trafficked to India’s big cities find their way back home but many families refuse to accept them into the fold. Neela, a girl from a Jharkhand village, who goes by only one name, worked as a domestic help at the residence of a top government official in New Delhi. She was often beaten up and kept locked in the house for several months. Himendra Narayan, a former journalist, who is now based in Ranchi, found out about her from his own domestic help. Mr. Narayan confronted the bureaucrat, who reluctantly admitted to having abused Neela, and allowed Mr. Narayan to take her back to Ranchi.
A week after her arrival in Ranchi, Neela disappeared. Mr. Narayan found that she had run away after being taunted by her family. They had considered her “impure” as she had returned from a big city.
Ms. Tutti is one of the few fortunate girls who returned home and were accepted by her family. After a month of working at her employer’s house in New Delhi, Ms. Tutti got to know another girl from Jharkhand. On a July morning, when their employers sent them to buy vegetables, the girls escaped. They boarded a train to Ranchi.
The police in Ranchi sent the girls to a shelter for the destitute. A week later, with help from non-profits, the girls returned to their homes. The Tuttis were overjoyed to see their daughter again. “I just didn’t want anything more,” said Mrs. Tutti.
The real challenge begins after the girls reach their homes. “They need psychological help and counseling as 72 percent of the girls who are trafficked are sexually exploited,” said Mr. Mishra.
After several weeks of conversations, Ms. Tutti told the volunteers from the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights that she had been sexually assaulted, although not raped, by her employers. “What could I do? I couldn’t run away,” said Ms. Tutti, as her eyes brimmed with tears. “I was kept locked in a room, in the basement.”
The social and economic indicators of Jharkhand are amongst the worst in the country. Even though the state is rich in minerals, the inequitable distribution of wealth and the lack of political will plague the state. “If there were livelihood opportunities provided in this state, why would people go outside in search of jobs?” asked Mr. Meena. “We have set up anti-trafficking cells in 20 districts of the state, but they do not have the required resources or man power,” he added.
On their annual visits home, the girls of Jharkhand, who get decent jobs in Delhi and Mumbai, describe the big cities as promised lands, where people have uninterrupted electricity, running water, and sufficient food to eat. “Those stories entice many young girls to leave,” said Mr. Tapno.
Ms. Tutti has returned to a school near her village. Her teachers have been kind and encourage her to work harder on her favorite subject, Hindi. Yet she measures the terrible scars of her experience against the weight of poverty and lack of opportunity. “I will not leave home again,” she said. “But if there is no way to earn money in the village, I wonder what we will do.”

Raksha Kumar is a freelance journalist based in Bangalore.

Friday, September 20, 2013

More Voices of Freedom

Leading human rights organisations have received numerous reports of large scale human trafficking in the Sinai Peninsula, in Egypt, from as far back as 2009. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported on this issue, where it is currently estimated that between 1500 and 2000 people are still held, suffering rape and torture at the hands of traffickers. The UN have called this “one of the most unreported humanitarian crises in the world.”

Thousands of men, women and children, have been kidnapped from the Shagarab refugee camp in Sudan, and taken by force across the border into Egypt. They are sold on several times, suffering abuse and rape at the hands of those who take them. The victims change hands among a complex criminal network, consisting of local tribesmen, and facilitated by Eritrean traffickers, as well as, it is alleged, the complicity of the Sudanese government. Eventually, those who survive the journey, are sold on to Bedouin traffickers, held captive in purpose made camps in the Sinai desert.

The accounts of survivors from these camps are shocking: rape and torture of men, women and children are commonplace. Victims are kept in appalling conditions, chained together and held at gunpoint. Many recount being made to call their families and beg them to pay for their release, whilst their captors tortured them. The traffickers demand huge sums of money from the victims families, leading many to sell their homes and face destitution, in desperate attempts to save their loved ones.

The Sinai is an expansive desert region that is notorious for its lawlessness. A military zone, it was previously occupied by Israel. The number of Egyptian security forces in the area is now regulated as part of the terms of the treaty between the two countries. The area is a renowned hotspot for African refugees, fleeing the continent on their way to Israel or crossing onto Europe. Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak refused to acknowledge the trafficking problem, and the criminal networks have escalated, with evidence of arms trafficking and organ harvesting also emerging.

There are currently be as many as 2000 African refugees held captive by Bedouin in the Sinai. At least a further 4000 people are believed to have passed through the hands of these same traffickers, and it is unknown whether they have now been released or whether they were murdered.

Voice of Freedom advocates for formerly trafficked women, who take refuge at the Ma’agan safe house in Tel Aviv. Many of the women are Eritrean refugees, who have escaped or been released by traffickers in the Sinai. Some arrive with their children, and others have been forced to leave loved ones behind. The women at the Ma’agan will find shelter, but their futures often remain uncertain, with many facing deportation.

Starting in October, Voice of Freedom will provide a series of participatory photography workshops, allowing the women an opportunity to speak out about their experiences and advocate against trafficking. Their images and their stories add their voice to the global debate on human trafficking, a voice which both those who lobby government, and those who are lobbied, say is missing. Their experiences will encourage those with the power to influence change to acknowledge the human consequences of ignoring this problem.

To find out more about how Voice of Freedom will fight trafficking, visit here:

Voice of Freedom has the support of NGO partners in the UK and in Israel, and are managed by expert in the field, PhotoVoice. The small and dedicated team have spent two years preparing for the project at their own expense. Now, the programme is finally in place, but there is little time to raise the remaining £1900 needed to fully fund the workshops.

If you would like to support the campaign and/ or donate you can do so here:
There is no amount too small and your pledge will help to fund the fight to end human trafficking, a crime which has no place in the modern world.

Leila Segal, speaking at the ERSA conference at Amnesty International 16 August 2013, about the power of photography in expressing and advocating around difficult emotion:

Voice of Freedom is proud to be working with and supported by the Eritrean community in London and Europe:

Khedijah Ali, shows her support for Voice of Freedom.
Eritrean activist, Feruz, supports Voice of Freedom

To find out more, or to help promote this campaign, please see:


 Amnesty report, 2013:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Voice of Freedom

Please check out Voice of Freedom, an advocacy project helping trafficked African women speak out about trafficking and torture in the Sinai desert in Egypt. There are still over 1500 refugees being held captive in the region, in what the UN calls “one of the most unreported humanitarian crises in the world.”

This project will raise awareness on this issue, and be used to lobby government, and those that have the power to bring about much needed action in this area. You can read more about how this project will help fight trafficking here:

Voice of Freedom has been a work in progress for over two years, but now they urgently need to raise £500 for interpreter fees, in order to make the project happen. They have less than two days left before their fundraising page closes, so if you can donate, even a small amount, please do. ttp://

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Issue Anti-Trafficking Review 'Human Rights at the Border'

Anti-Trafficking Review issue 2, on 'Human Rights at the Border', is now available free online at:
What should be the role for border controls in anti-trafficking responses, if there should be one at all? Heightened border security is increasing risks in the migration process. Many people decide that despite barriers and risks they must cross a border for survival, either in terms of economics or safety. In many cases, at border crossings, it is not possible for practitioners to tell if people are being strictly trafficked or whether they fall in another migration category, yet the risks created by border systems and the violations experienced by individuals at borders are not to be left out of conversations on trafficking and of migrants' rights more broadly.
The latest issue of the Anti-Trafficking Review ( includes eight peer-reviewed articles on how anti-trafficking measures play out in border zones. 
Anti-Trafficking Review, issue 2, Contents 
(click on the links below to download the articles)
Special Issue Guest Editor: Dr Sverre Molland                      
Editor: Rebecca Napier-Moore
'Debate' on the Role of Border Controls in the Response to Human Trafficking
Thematic Articles
Book Review 
The Anti-Trafficking Review, Issue 2 launch will be held at the People's Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights in New York in October. Details will be announced soon. 
The Anti-Trafficking Review promotes a human rights based approach to anti-trafficking. The Review offers an outlet and space for dialogue between academics, practitioners, trafficked persons and advocates seeking to communicate new ideas and findings to those working for and with trafficked persons. Each issue features a Debate Section in which two or more sides of a contentious issue are presented.
An open source, annual publication, the Review presents rigorously considered, peer reviewed material in clear English. A publication of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, the journal has a readership in 78 countries and is abstracted/indexed in Ulrich's, Ebsco Host, Directory of Open Access Journals, eGranary,, and ProQuest.
The 2014 forthcoming issue of the Review is on the theme 'Follow the Money: Spending on Anti-Trafficking'. The Call for Papers is available online 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Woman was promised a salon job, human-trafficking trial hears

Woman was promised a salon job, human-trafficking trial hears

The alleged victim at the centre of a human-trafficking trial in B.C. first realized she had been duped less than a day after arriving in Canada.
The woman, who cannot be named under a publication ban, had flown to Vancouver from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, after her employer, Mumtaz Ladha, promised her temporary work at a local salon. But the day after she arrived at Ms. Ladha’s $4-million West Vancouver home, she was handed a set of uniforms and told one of Ms. Ladha’s former housekeepers would arrive that day to show her where the cleaning supplies were located and train her for domestic work, the woman testified in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday.


“I was surprised,” the woman, now 26, told the court through an interpreter. “She had told me I was coming to work at a salon.” But she didn’t protest, because when Ms. Ladha “asks you to do something, you don’t say no,” she said.
Earlier in the trial, the court heard the woman had lived a life of hardship and poverty in Tanzania and began working as a housekeeper for Ms. Ladha at 14.
She stopped working as a housekeeper in 2005, when she had a baby, but later returned to work for Ms. Ladha again, this time as a cleaner at a salon Ms. Ladha owned. For that work, she first made 50,000 Tanzanian shillings a month – just over 30 Canadian dollars – and double that when she learned how to do manicures and pedicures and give massages.
In early 2008, Ms. Ladha began telling the young woman she would take her to Canada, said the alleged victim, who initially declined the offer because she did not want to leave her son. But Ms. Ladha persisted, sweetening the deal by telling the woman she planned to open a salon in Vancouver and would pay her $200 a month to work at it. After six months, the two would travel back to Tanzania, Ms. Ladha allegedly promised.
The immigration process was fraught with lies, the woman claimed: Ms. Ladha had obtained a passport and visa for the woman by fraudulent means and instructed her, if asked by customs officials, to say she was going to Canada for school.
When she and Ms. Ladha arrived in Vancouver in August, 2008, Ms. Ladha’s daughter picked them up at the airport and drove them to the West Vancouver home – where the woman claims she was immediately put to work unpacking boxes for hours before finally retiring to a small, windowless bedroom.
“I assumed they were things for the salon,” she told the court.
The next morning, Ms. Ladha handed her two pale blue, sleeveless dresses, telling her this would be her daily uniform. A white uniform, for when the Ladhas hosted parties, came later.
Ms. Ladha also demanded the woman’s passport for safekeeping, the woman testified. “I said I wanted to keep it but she said, ‘No, all the passports are kept in the safe.’”
From that day forward, the woman worked long hours daily, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, preparing meals and serving the Ladha family and its guests, she said. She was never paid and did not question Ms. Ladha about the promises of work at a salon.
She fled the residence in June, 2009, and sought assistance at a local shelter.
Ms. Ladha has pleaded not guilty to four counts under the federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Act: human trafficking; employing a foreign national without authorization; misrepresenting facts to the High Commission of Canada in Tanzania; and misrepresenting facts to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
The trial continues.